Writer’s Block: Christmas Traditions

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Last week while bustling away here at the Press and Parade offices, my phone buzzed just out of sight on my desk. A few seconds later, it buzzed again. When I reached over to check it, I saw that it was a pair of text messages from my dad.

Mom had him hard at work putting up lighted candy canes, and a lighted Santa sleigh — complete with Rudolph and friends — in their front yard. He had sent a photograph of the work-in-progress along with a joke about how hard he was working in his retirement. A moment later, another text came through saying “the boss” (my mom) had returned so he had to go.

Later that evening, he sent a second photo showing the front yard and the roof of the house aglow with hundreds of twinkling lights shining brightly in the dark. Another caption announced he had won “employee of the year” for his efforts.

It was all in good fun. My parents have a pretty great partnership. While dad works to transform the outside of the house, mom will busy herself indoors putting up baubles and festive trinkets. It’s something they’ve done for as long as I can remember.

I had the opportunity to visit with them over the weekend and marveled at the holiday atmosphere they had created. Though the theme is a familiar one, it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

As I neared the Christmas tree which stood at a place of honor in the living room, I saw ornaments hanging from its branches that are nearly as old as I am. Like a family tree tells the story of one’s ancestors, this living pine tree becomes a yearly repository for the history of my immediate family.

I picked up a sun catcher with my initials written at the top in permanent marker. It was part of a set I painted sometime before I turned 10. Around the tree hung other sun catchers painted by my siblings. With perfect foresight, mom had initialed them all, making it easy to see, decades later, which of the three of us had painted what.

Another ornament — a clear plastic snowflake — glowed at its edges from a Christmas light shining behind it. In its center was a wallet-sized photo of a younger version of my dad, smiling during some long-passed Christmas Eve. True to 1980s fashion trends, he is seen in the photograph sporting a handlebar mustache still raven black with youth. In another photo ornament my mom smiles warmly, the crimson of her lipstick matching the red of her dress — her Sunday best.

Looking up at the tree I see dozens more moments frozen in time. The sight of specific ornaments brings back a flood of memories of Christmases past — the smells, sounds and emotions that surround them. Some of those activities have become nothing more than fond memories, but others remain traditions we continue every year.

Christmastime is when mom fills the kitchen with the smell of sugar and cinnamon, or savory spices as she makes dozens of pan de polvo cookies and tamales. She’s usually able to wrangle at least one of us kids to help out. And why wouldn’t we when one of the perks of the job is eating the fruits of our labor?

Though we’re older and spread far from home now, those traditions remain steadfast. It’s one of my favorite part of the holidays. What are your family Christmas traditions? Let us know online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.

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